Mass. looks to lure Hollywood

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BOSTON -- Over the years, Hollywood has faced two looming hurdles to bringing a little stardust to Massachusetts: nailing a Boston accent and doing business in a state that has shown little interest in moviemaking.

Now star-struck state lawmakers and Gov. Deval Patrick -- a self-proclaimed "nut about movies" -- are hoping to lure more big budget and independent filmmakers to the Bay State with a sweetened package of tax credits.

The goal is to add to the short but impressive list of movies with roots in the Bay State, from "Good Will Hunting" and "Mystic River" to "A Civil Action" and last year's Best Picture winner "The Departed."

Patrick said that just because Massachusetts is better known for world-class universities and mutual funds, it shouldn't turn its back on the silver screen.

"Massachusetts has an awful lot going for it. Wonderful locations, a gifted and experienced crew base and a long tradition of great movies," he said. "But the creative economy is extremely mobile. We can't stand still in the face of stiff challenges from other states."

House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi said with so many great novels and stories set in Massachusetts, it's important to encourage filmmakers to shoot their movies here.

"You can't really duplicate Boston or Massachusetts anywhere else," said DiMasi, D-Boston. "We need the film industry to come here and be authentic."

The legislation, which has the backing of leaders in the House and Senate, builds on a 2005 law that offered tax credits for the first $7 million spent on a movie shot in Massachusetts. The credit doesn't kick in until the first $250,000 is spent.

The bill would lift that cap, start the credits after the first $50,000 to entice smaller independent movies, and expand the definition of movies to include digital media.

At least 39 other states have similar film tax credits, including Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The 2005 law has already reaped benefits for the state, according to Massachusetts Film Office Executive Director Nicholas Paleologos.

In the seven years before the law, he said, the state saw just four studio films shot here with a total investment in Massachusetts of $27 million. In the 15 months after the law took effect, he said, the state saw three films shot here, pumping $80 million into the local economy.

Those three films included two Disney movies, "Game Plan" and "Gone Baby Gone", and a Sony picture "21".

Paleologos said another big studio, Paramount, is considering shooting a movie in Lowell.

He applauded Patrick and lawmakers, saying the bill is about boosting the economy, not wooing stars.

"They're not star-struck, they are job-struck," he said.

Sam Weisman, a director whose film and television credits include "George of the Jungle" "The-Out-of-Towners" and episodes of "Moonlighting" and "Law and Order", said there's no reason why Massachusetts should try to boost its moviemaking profile.

"There's going to be product made whether it's going to be made here or somewhere else," he said. "To the extent that it can be made here, it should be made here."

Weisman said the advent of more mobile digital media is also a plus for tech-savvy Massachusetts.

"The only thing we're fighting is the winter and the high cost of living," said Weisman, who lives in Newton.

Patrick said he's not just a governor trying to lure movies to Massachusetts, he's also a big fan.

"I'm kind of a nut about movies, but among the best movies I think I've ever seen is a movie called 'Life is Beautiful'," said Patrick, referring to the haunting comedy set during the Holocaust that won a 1998 Academy Award for its Italian star, Roberto Benigni.

As for nailing the ever-elusive Boston accent, Patrick said Hollywood is on its own.

"You mean like The Depahted?" Patrick joked.
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